Tag Archives: Norwegian

Making Lefse

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For those of you who do not know what Lefse (lef-suh) is, let me educate you…it’s basically a Norwegian tortilla, but that’s really blasphemy.  I’m not Norwegian by blood, but by love, so when I visit my family in Wisconsin, I get the full-on Norwegian heritage experience.  I love that about my life.

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There are several variations of a Lefse recipe.  Me:  What’s in this?  Just potatoes and flour?  The women:  Yes.  Later…

One of the women:  I like the Lefse made with cream.  Me:  It has cream?  Along with potato and flour?  Them:  Yes.    Still later…

One of the women:  It tastes better when we make it with butter, too.  Me:  Butter?  And cream, potatoes, and flour?  Them:  Yes.  And then I found out…all of the recipes consist of potato (real mashed, powdered, or flakes), flour, a shortening of some sort (lard, butter, Crisco-type), a liquid (cream, milk, or water), and salt.  A smidge of sugar is optional.  I guess I just needed to read a recipe.

The potatoes are made the day before.   They sit in the refrigerator to cool for at least 24 hours.  The dough is mixed by hand, adding flour to make it the correct consistency, and it is rolled really, really, really thinly on a round cloth, covered Bethany board.  A special thinly-ridged rolling pin is used, and that is covered with a sock thingie.  Then long flat sticks, sometimes decorated on one end, are used to lift the circle of Lefse, which is brought to the hot, Heritage Griddle, carefully laid across, and then cooked until it bubbles on one side, is flipped, and cooked briefly on the other.  The flat is lifted off with the Lefse turner, and laid on a cloth.  Many circles of Lefse are piled up, and later, when properly cooled, the Lefse are folded in fourths, and packed in baggies.

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Lefse is a tradition.  Like Krumkake, around here, Lefse is a taste of the past.  People eat it with butter and sugar, or jam, or just plain.  Saturday, I went to the church with my sister to make Lefse.  There were eight of us…one mixer, four rollers, and three turners.  I, as a rookie, was assigned to be a turner

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People will come to special church sales just to buy the Lefse.  And women in churches all over the northern midwest are gathering to make the Lefse to sell.  Some have a personal business, selling Lefse for at least $4-$6 a folded over piece.  It is a big money-maker for the churches, and a bargain for the buyers who get a baggie of 9 pieces for $15.  All aspects of the experience are bonding events for the Lefse-making women and the Lefse-buying folks.

America is a melting pot.  We are people from all the lands on earth.  We embrace our past, share our traditions, and look to a better future for all our humans.  It’s a better world with Lefse making women, or any other food-making tradition that’s practiced.  My take-away lesson?  It’s all about teamwork.  If only we could have an overflow of this practice in the real life world-at-large.

 

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Hygge

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Hygge is pronounced hoo-gah.  Not to be confused with those smoking lounges that seem to be a throwback to the 60’s, this Danish word means “coziness.”  Hygge is apparently a “movement.”  That just makes me want to declare that I have been all about coziness for the last six years.  Ahead of the curve, and I didn’t even know it!

Recently, I read an article in a winter issue of a leading monthly magazine mentioning this word, hygge.  I don’t remember which magazine.  I was in Wisconsin, and I read whatever I can pick up at the folks’ or my sisters’ homes. There is Norwegian heritage there, and when I see something about Scandinavia, my curiosity is peaked.  Anyway, the article included a spread about all things cozy.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and low and behold, in the Sunday Parade insert, was blurb about hygge, and an explanation that this word implies the idea of “embracing happiness and the positive in everyday life.”  There was a picture of a couple in front of a glowing stove wrapped in thick sweaters and socks.  Well, that is just me all over, except for the couple part.

My winter home wardrobe is thick sweaters and socks, afghans, and sometimes a blanket/shawl around my shoulders…sort of a crone-type outfit.  I have my red Plow and Hearth stove glowing like crazy, fairy lights, and candles burning from dusk to bedtime.   It seems I am the height of fashion and immersed in a current trend!

I have often been told by visitors at my tiny house that it is very “cozy.”  This adjective has been used frequently, and I’m glad.  Cozy is comforting, warm, and friendly.  Living in a hygge haven is a joy.  I’m all about happiness and positivity every day, so, hey, I’ll own it.

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Farm Days…

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It’s been a busy week here on the farm in southern Wisconsin.  Bell and Chime Choir practice was on Sunday evening.  Even though I got to wear the cool, white gloves, I was a disaster, seemingly belling and chiming at random, but by the end of practice, I had definitely improved.  With my sister on one side, a friend with strong musical talents on the other, and finally, color-coded music, I managed to get through three of the four pieces with only a few mistakes.  We’ll see if it stuck when I go to practice this weekend.  The big performance is next week.  I’ll try not to embarrass myself and others.

Then there was the Rock County 4-H Fair.  The temps were high, and it was steamy, but my sister-in-law and I trudged through the stock barns.  I love a good fair, and I love seeing all the animals and exhibits.  This one did not disappoint.  We saw cows (duh, it’s Wisconsin), goats, chickens, bunnies, and the token pony.  Then we looked at all the kid art and projects, and wound things up throwing ping-pong balls into small rimmed fish bowls filled with colored water.  The game was rigged, of course, but we left with Spot, who will live out his fishy days in a horse trough.

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At my weekly visit to my other sister’s-in-law, we drank decadent coffee from the chocolate shop, walked the historic town square, and went to listen to her sister’s accordion band, the Junction Jammers, play for a retirement center at the town’s band shell in the park.  The hot weather had broken, the cloud cover kept the temps down, and the music was lively.  The town of Monroe was settled by the Swiss, and it shows all over, from architecture to food.  If you ever visit, be sure to go to Bummies’ for a delicious braunschweiger and limburger cheese sammy.  You’ve heard of Swiss Colony Cheeses?  They’re headquartered in Monroe.

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I finished the week making a hardware store run and apple picking with Dad, and carrying down items for a Garage Sale from the attic for Mom.  The folks are active and busy every minute.  Both read, keep up with current events, walk the half-mile horse track, and climb up and down the stairs of their 100 year-old farmhouse, from attic to basement, like they were, well, much younger.  They are amazing, and it’s a gift, plus good genes.

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Tomorrow is Krumbkake making day at my sister’s.  That’s pronounced kroom’-kock-ah.  It’s a Norwegian pastry, and an aunt and cousin will be here.  I’m not sure what the Krumbkake will be for…I think an upcoming church event.  From my understanding, they are thin cookies fried on a double-sided iron that looks something like a hamburger press with fancy designs inside.  The designs emboss the wafer.  Then each is rolled into a cone.  We were cautioned to have band-aids to protect our fingertips.  Hoo-boy.

There’s nothing like summer on the farm.  And, with a nod to Garrison Keillor, that’s the news.  Blessed be farm days, and more to come.

Blue, the Color, not the Mood…

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When the snow covers the rolling fields and hills of southern Wisconsin, at two times of day the world looks BLUE.  It is amazing.  The blue is a soft, light navy-ish purple.  Though I try to capture this color in a photo, because I don’t have the words, it needs to be seen in person.

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I have a hard time pinning down a favorite color, and if asked, I would answer that mine is red, not blue, but blue takes a very close second place. The blues that I am attracted to are sometimes vivid, and sometimes subtle.  The two-blue-times of day are more subtle.

It is hard to have “subtle” on a sunny day when the snow covers rural Wisconsin, though. Then, the blinding light hurts our blue Norwegian eyes.  I say “our” with tongue-in-cheek.  If you know me, you know that my complexion is more Mediterranean than Scandinavian, but I do have those eyes.

Yesterday was a photographer’s dream day.  Everything looked sharp and focused.  As is typical for me, I did not have my phone, and couldn’t capture the blinding blue of the sky, which I would call Carolina Blue, the blue to which I return tomorrow.

Vivid or subtle, I can see why blue is often used to describe the moods of longing and need.  Next time I get my Wisconsin fix, it will be summer. That season brings a whole new pallet of blues, the color.

For right now, I struggle a bit with blue, the mood. Hoo-boy.

Getting in touch with my Norwegian roots…

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Today, my sister and I made Fattigmand.  It is a Norwegian delicacy usually made before Christmas.  We were a week late this year, due to lack of motivation.  Now that Christmas Day is over, we had some time on our hands, and Mom had already bought all the eggs. The cream was in the freezer, and the Peanut Oil was sitting in the pantry.  It was a good thing to do on a cold Sunday afternoon while waiting for a baby to come, but that is another blog for the future.

A few years ago, I was able to get in on the Lefse making, and the doughnut making, but I had not experienced the Fattigmand making.  Basically, it is deep fried egg yolks with cardamom and a little bit of brandy, but I was at Mass when my sister made the dough, so I am sure there is more to it than that.  She rolled the dough.  I had the dangerous job of manning the fryer.

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The dough is rolled very thin, sliced with a crimping tool into diamond shapes, and then a slit is cut in the middle.  You are supposed to turn the dough through the hole to make a twist.  That was too delicate for us, so we just fried it in diamonds, and it crinkled on its own.  The Fattigmand comes out as a very thin,  crispy pastry.  After the pieces are cooled, the perfect ones are sorted out, and sprinkled with powdered sugar just before serving.  It is pretty labor intensive.  Fosdal’s Bakery in Stoughton charges a dollar apiece for Fattigmand, and they don’t taste as good because theirs are baked.  We say forget that healthy method.

I love sharing all these practices with my family, here…the Christmas Eve worship, the gathering celebrations, and the specialty foods.   I am not Norwegian by birth.  I am Norwegian by a marriage of 61 years.  It is good to get in touch with your history, especially when it is your present.

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